The day was June 29, 1998, the place was Lyon, France, and I was just an 11 year old boy watching Germany playing Croatia in the World Cup. It was the first year I showed interest in football, and I instantly fell in love with the Mannschaft (the German football team).
To be honest, I was not a big fan of the skills the German players showed, nor of their techniques, but I was a huge fan of their fighting spirit, and of how they ran across the field from the first minute till the final whistle.
On that sad day, Germany lost 3-0 against Croatia in a very dramatic match. Nobody expected that, and I remember crying like a spoiled kid who did not get his dessert.
4 years later, Germany reached the finale against Brasil, and lost 2-0. Another 4 years after that, they reached the semi final and lost 2-0 against Italy. Another 4 years, and they lost 1-0 against Spain. And tonight, 16 years later, they crushed Brasil (the hosting country) 7-1 in the semi final (They reached the semi finals 4 times in the last 4 tournaments, a world record).
Plenty of lessons are there for us to learn from the Germans. I could only come up with 5 in such a short notice. 5 lessons for startups to learn from the Mannschaft.
They never quit, they fight one battle after another, one match after another, and they never throw the towel. Startups go through roller coasters all the time, if they are not in it to win it, then they should not even bother book domains for their sites.
2) Learning from the competition.
In 1998, France won the world cup against Brasil through 2 headers by Zizou (Zinedine Zidane) an Algerian immigrant who joined the Gallic roosters at an early age. Zidane was not the only player in the French team who was a foreigner. France won through a team of immigrants that had the talent, the attitude, and what is most important, a healthy integration.
In 2002, Germany had a multicultural team that consisted of players who had Polish, Spanish, Italian, and African roots, among others.
Having a bocquet of multi-ethnic players was not the only thing Germany learnt from the competition. When tiki-taka proved itself as winning football technique, the German greatest football club, Bayern Munich hired one of the scholars of this modern technique, Barcelona’s ex-manager Pep Guardiola. This move gave Joachim Löw (The Mannschaft’s manager) a front seat view to learn all the tricks of tiki-taka. Joachim clearly used what he learned in this world cup so far, and it is paying off.
Startups should keep a close eye on the competition, local and global ones, and they should learn from them.
“Release fast, release often, and iterate” these golden words describe the best approach toward releasing a new product in any startup. Changing the formulas, and business tactics is viable for any startup to survive. Don’t stick to your original plan, if it does not work, you better be quick enough and alter your moves.
Joachim Löw changed the formation of his squad so many times before he picked the 23 players who are going with him to Brasil. He did not stop there, he changed the tactics, alter the players, and moved from one formation to another during this world cup till he found the perfect 11 man team.
These men won 7-1 against Brasil tonight.
4) Keeping all eyes on the goal.
If you get the chance to walk into the German football federation building, you will find a picture of the famous Maracana stadium in Rio De Janeiro, where the final match will take place next Sunday.
Everyone in the German football team, the players, the managers, even the physicians kept an eye on where they are going, what their goal is, and kept visualizing how they would get there, to that stadium, and nowhere else but it.
Startups should keep their goals, and KPIs written, and hung on the wall for every employee to see, and remember. There is no room for distractions where winners come from.
5) Seize all opportunities, score all goals, be limitless.
The Mannschaft scored 5 goals in the first half an hour of their game against Brasil, but they did not stop there. They scored another two in the second half, and would have scored more if the game stretched for more than 90 minutes. They did not say that’s enough for us, this is our limit, this is more than we expected. They kept going.
Now, I am a huge fan of The Mannschaft, and I am a huge fan of House Of Cards too, and here is one quote by Franck Underwood that I really like, and I could not help but remember while I was watching the game tonight “Any pugilist knows that when someone’s on the ropes, that’s when you throw a combination to the gut and a left hook to the jaw”.
Startups should be limitless, fearless, they must believe that they are good enough, strong enough, and that even the sky is not their limit. Startups must stand tall against a competing business, no matter how big that business is, and they should take a shot after another, till they remove that business from the top.
It was a long journey for the Mannschaft from 1998 till 2014, and I bet you money that they will keep on teaching us lessons till the end of football days.